BookHound
Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

GIRL IN THE ARENA by Lise Haines

The cover on Girl in the Arena sold me on the book immediately. It’s beautifully done and shows a girl in gladiator gear. Based on everything I read about the book, I really thought I was in for an action story and was really looking forward to it.

Instead, the book turns out to be more social commentary with feminist insights strewn throughout. There’s still a story here, and I really liked the main character’s voice. Lyn feels like a real person with real problems. I thought her relationship with her younger brother Thad was awesome, and I really enjoyed seeing them in scenes together.

Lyn’s relationship with her mother is one of the primary focal points of the book. Her mom, Allison, is hypnotic in her treatment of her children, her husband, and her life. I felt a lot of sympathy for her, but I also realize that she’s the way she is because she’s weak.

Lise Haines polarizes women’s choices in the mother-daughter relationship in these pages. Allison is a woman that everyone else in this violence-addicted society understands and wants to be like. She is royalty, the queen, in the Gladiator world. Her greatest blessing is that the eyes of the world are upon her, and at the same time this is also her greatest curse.

I didn’t get the relationship Lyn starts to have with Uber, the man who killed her latest stepfather in the arena. I just didn’t see how she would ever be able to face him. And two a degree, I didn’t buy the possibility that men who killed other men in the arena as part of an internationally televised event would be nice guys. Sure, they can have nice tendencies. But Uber is portrayed as being too innocent. He wouldn’t be able to have those kinds of feelings and do the work he does. He would be just as damaged as Lyn, and if the author is trying to convey it that way, the story didn’t work for me on that level.

From everything I read, I was going to get to see Lyn take her own fate in her hands by entering the arena as a combatant. We even have scenes of her training with various equipment along the way. Finally, running out of pages, I braced myself for a final showdown at the end. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out as I expected either. You can’t show me a cover with a girl dressed as a gladiator and not deliver the action.

I do have to admit that the author really keys in on some interesting facets of today’s society, which is what she was probably trying to do. Although she didn’t draw any definite parallels between her gladiator sport and the real world major league sports, they were there. One of the things we’re seeing these days is that our gridiron, diamond, and court athletes are more violent than in the past. Another is the role of women in today’s society. I felt the author did a splendid job and showing the dichotomy between the sexes, as well as the age group.

This is one of those books that reminds me I have to be wary of covers. It wasn’t what I expected, as was as promised by the cover, but it was still a good, solid read. Just not in the direction I had expected.

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